By Mims Cushing

Let’s hope Mother Nature puts up a Save the Date stickie on her calendar for 2116 for another 100-year-old hurricane, and not a minute sooner.

I also hope your house is in better shape now than in the after days of Hurricane Matthew. Some returned to flooded floors, ruined furniture and trees on damaged roofs, or sand dunes that disappeared. My heart is sad but not broken, because we had no loss of lives in Ponte Vedra Beach.

One circle of five of my friends texted constantly, maybe 50 times in the days during the storm. The texts started with, “So what are your plans? Worried sick.” They heard people were putting furniture upstairs. Another said the beaches were eerie. And so we lived our evacuated lives. Three of us were in Jacksonville motels, one was with family and one went to her cabin in another state.

The lobby of my motel was ominous Wednesday night. Rumors abounded that we might have to evacuate. The storm surges were predicted to be around nine to 12 feet or more in PVB. One report said we wouldn’t be allowed to return for one week. Later when I heard about damages to the Jacksonville Beach Pier, I lost my cool.

Thursday night this pet-friendly motel had checked in dozens of well-mannered dogs and wildly protesting cats in carriers. And a caged bird. A woman passed out popsicles in an area where a TV was on 24/7. Another came in with cookies and fruit. I left magazines. We were giddy with nervousness, but congenial.

The motel slipped a notice under everyone’s door. I thought it said they were going to board up our first floor windows, but I misread it. They were not. We were, however, told we might have sit out the worst of the storm in the bathroom. My dog stuck to her schedule, “making me” go out at the hour we’d normally go out at home. She quickly did her business in the pouring rain, and then, Saturday, an hour before I planned to head home, she jumped in the full bathtub, raced all around the room, and shook herself dry. Oh Lily! How could you?

I hadn’t brought enough cat’s prescription food, so I started halving kitty’s food and she yowled her displeasure. She knew! When the storm hit Friday afternoon it didn’t seem any worse at my motel than a nor’easter. We had to stay as we were not allowed back to the barrier islands. Bridges were closed. High school and college friends emailed me from many states to “check up on me.”

Saturday. Driving home after waiting on San Pablo Road to cross the ditch at noon, the sun beamed. Someone passed out water; we shared war stories. At noon, hundreds of cars, some stuck for hours, drove over the bridge. Driving up TPC Boulevard, I looked for the walking path but it was gone. No, it wasn’t, just completely covered with debris. Trees were down, some giant ones resting on roofs in various communities. One family returned from a vacation overseas to find their home flooded and floors and furniture destroyed.

No water was standing in my home. I didn’t need boots after all. Terrible devastation in St. Augustine, and later we heard the same thing of North Carolina and parts of Georgia and in Charleston.

A few hours after arriving home, as I sat at my desk, my computer came on. Power! Cable! Water returned in late afternoon, though it needed to be boiled (very pioneer, my daughter said).

The final hurricane text message from my friend to our “family” ended: “Thanks for the peace of mind you passed on. You are such a blessing to me.” She was cooking anything partially thawed when her son came into the kitchen and said it smelled like Thanksgiving.

She said, “It is.”

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